Seattle, like most cities, is a collection of neighborhoods. Most people who visit the city see very little of what makes Seattle Seattle. Tourists will see Pike’s Market, the Space Needle, and most of the downtown core, but people who live in or near Seattle have their favorite neighborhoods. About 25 years ago, I loved the U-District (the area abutting the University of Washington). There was a Tower Records on the “Ave” and it was not difficult to find a place where young people gathered to imbibe and socialize. I recall standing outside a bar named REDACTED wondering if I should go in. I looked in the window and saw a young man standing on a table pretending to surf. The table broke sending glasses, beer, and the young surfer crashing to the ground. It was a cool neighborhood. I don’t visit the U-District too often these days because there is no longer a Tower Records and because it is where young people gather to imbibe and socialize, but when my daughter asked to attend a concert in the U-District to see Tangerine (a band I really like) I could not refuse.
I asked where they would be playing and my daughter said, “Heartland.”
I was not familiar with Heartland, “Where is that?”
“It’s an art studio.”
“Oh, that sounds nice.
Where is it located?”
“It’s on REDACTED, next to
People always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and I would like to think that life is better lived by not judging things by their covers, but once you reach a certain age (right around my age, I suppose) judging things backed by years of experience can save a lot of time. I will also save anyone looking for Heartland time too, it is located at REDACTED in Seattle. Don’t look for a sign, don’t look on the internet or try to use Google Maps because Heartland exists in a parallel universe. All you have to do is go to the building with REDACTED, open the REDACTED, and step across the threshold and you will be there. This was not really what I was expecting. In my head I thought the terms “art gallery” meant a place where wine and cheese are consumed and people talk about how the artist used the negative space in the paintings, Heartland is not that type of “art gallery” it is more of a place where you bring your own sandwich and you wonder if the string that the dog pictures are taped to is hemp. We arrived early, even though we were about 45 minutes late, and were told that there was a five dollar donation for the show. I am certain there is some tax related reason to call it a donation, but if my donation went to the bands or to the cleaning bill for Heartland then I am completely cool with the “donation,” but I felt like I was back in college paying for a red cup after the keg was empty. There were about a dozen people standing around talking, there were free jelly beans (I am a germaphobe so I didn’t eat any), and I did my best not to acknowledge the strangeness of it all but I felt like I was in an episode of Portlandia directed by David Lynch. My daughter and her friend (one of the many nice people who my daughter has met through this whole Seattle music thing) gabbed about stuff while I spent my time trying to figure out the rules for this alternate universe located behind the blue door. There were rules, they were listed on a poster.
And there was art to examine.
I spent far too much time trying to figure out the dog pictures. Here is what I discovered: There were pictures of dogs, the pictures were attached to string with black duct tape, the string was attached to branches (which might be significant to a botanist) at the top and bottom of each “artifact,” and after 30 minutes I knew nothing more about the pictures than before. Maybe this “art gallery” was a tax-exempt organization that needed to have some art so they put this stuff up to keep the feds out of their pockets. It is the only explanation that makes sense to me. Finally, about an hour and fifteen minutes after the advertised start time, the opening act (Mr ______ Saltpeter) took to the stage carpet. He gave a very brief and incomprehensible explanation as to why he was there and not the expected band, and then he began to play. There was a song about denting a car and writing a song instead of leaving a note (which is against the law in Washington State, but apparently not in Heartland), and then there was a song about having a short attention span, and there was some nice banter with the audience between songs which was really easy because they were standing right next to him. The banter made the set enjoyable. Mr. Saltpeter thought that his fly might be open because people were laughing, but I think they were laughing at his funny lyrics. His set went for six song because he stated that he had only written six songs and as he started his last song I began to think about art and performance and the need for humans to express themselves. This guy was probably not going to get enough money from this gig to cover the cost of his Big Gulp and parking, but nevertheless he showed up to play to a small group of people who enjoyed his act. There was something satisfying in the emptiness and impermanence of a small man who resembled George Constanza playing songs that no one had ever heard (and would probably never hear again) in a small garage in the U-District. The Yellow Dress was next to take the stage, and by take the stage I mean they walked around the cinderblock and began setting up their stuff on the stage carpet. The Yellow Dress is a band who traveled all the way from San Francisco to play in a garage in the U-District. I know rents are pretty high in the Bay Area so maybe this was a step up for them. They might have been able to only book gigs in single car garages up to this point and Heartland is a two or three car garage, but if I traveled from San Francisco to Seattle to perform, I would have been a bit bummed to see I was performing in a garage, and that is why I am a jerk and the members of The Yellow Dress are better people than me because they were very entertaining. The band was comprised of a drummer, a bass player, a saxophonist, and the lead-singer who played a small guitar which looked even smaller than a small guitar because the lead-singer was a big fellow, if pushed to further describe the lead-singer I would say take John Cleese and put an epic Grizzly Adams beard on him, then give him a little Toys-R-Us guitar and you would have it. The lead-singer (I suppose he has a name, but if you Google search The Yellow Dress you will find lots of opportunities to buy yellow dresses) was a character. He belted out the songs, played with a wildness, and was very funny between songs even though someone had stolen his jacket earlier in the day. He insisted we all partake in eating jelly beans (I passed again), had us singing along to songs we had never heard, and offered sweaty hugs after the set (I passed).
By the time Tangerine got their gear set up and were ready to begin the tiny garage was packed. If the Fire Marshall dropped in I am certain he would have had some concerns, but if Heartland were to burn down it would be a pretty quick fire and everyone could easily escape through the garage door. The problem with the crowd was that they started to get pushy. Usually I can avoid the whole push toward the stage thing by standing in the back and looking creepy, but there wasn’t much space and looking creepy in a garage isn’t as easy as looking creepy in a club because everyone in a garage looks creepy. (Is looking creepy against the rules stated on the poster, or is there a difference between being creepy and looking creepy?) Anyway, the crowd all pushed forward, held back only by the carpet and cinder block, and then Tangerine started cranking out the tunes. It was loud. At one time in my life I was a big fan of loud, but now that I have a limited amount of hearing left I try to protect it, so when the songs started I felt my ear canal begin to swell as it attempted to protect my damaged tympanic membrane. There was no escape from the loudness of it all, but I will say that Tangerine is really, really good. I think the song writing is wonderful, their sound is unique and lovely, and they put on a great show. They blazed through a set of six or seven songs and left me wishing they would play a bit more. If you enjoy music and have a chance to see Tangerine, you should do so. Until then check them out on iTunes or on their webpage: http://tangerineband.com/